Ambassador Robin Dunnigan’s Live Interview with Imedi TV
Q-n about Ambassador’s impressions on Georgia, now, after having met with government officials, the president, the people, civil society representatives
Ambassador Dunnigan: First, thank you so much for having me. I’m thrilled to be here today. And, I think I am incredibly lucky, not only to be a U.S. ambassador representing President Biden, but to be a U.S. ambassador here in Georgia. My first impressions are that this country, not only is it incredibly beautiful, but the Georgian people, I’m so impressed every day by their warmth, their passion, the food, the wine, the culture. But most importantly, I’m impressed at the values we share Americans and Georgians. I have very much appreciated the warm welcome from everybody in Georgia, the government, the president, the people of Georgia, civil society organizations. And what have received from everybody with whom I have met is the commitment to continue to deepen our relationship between the United States and Georgia. And I am really looking forward to doing that in the next several years.
Q-n about the Ambassador’s priorities in communication between Georgia and the U.S. on the path of Georgia’s integration with the West , and the country’s resistance to Russia’s adversary actions
Ambassador Dunnigan: First and foremost, my top priority is to continue to deepen our strategic partnership. That is my President’s and Secretary of State Blinken’s top priority. And also, as part of that, to support George’s integration with the West, with the EU, with NATO. And I want to take this moment to congratulate all Georgians on the tremendous step of the recommendation for EU candidacy status. Why do I care about that? Because I believe that Georgia’s future is firmly with the West, integrated with Western institutions. I think that is better for the United States and I think it’s better for all Georgians. I also hope to increase our bilateral economic relationship, grow our trade and economic ties. And I will always put as a priority, Georgia’s sovereignty. And that means continuing to work with Georgia to help it deter further aggression from Russia and to defend its borders.
Q-n about the Ambassador’s plans to attract more American investments and with regards to the activities in bilateral trade, and economy in general
Ambassador Dunnigan: Absolutely. In fact, I’ve met with dozens of private sector companies and government officials to talk about exactly this. I think – you know our programs already -through USAID we have significant programs that support Georgia’s economic growth, including support for small and medium businesses, for small farmers, for agriculture. We have the Development Finance Corporation, DFC, which actually is here right now. DFC has invested right now about 250 million U.S. dollars across sectors to support Georgia. But I think we can do more. I think we can bring more U.S. companies here, take more Georgian companies to the United States. And I would love to say when I leave Georgia, that we have really grown our trade relationships.
Q-n about the EC recommendation for Georgia’s candidacy status, the aspirations of the Georgians people, and the government elected by the people to become a member of EU family
Ambassador Dunnigan: Again, I think it is a tremendous step in Georgia’s path to get this recommendation. And sometimes people forget what it really means. You know, to be a member of the EU means, first of all, you are firmly a member of Western democracies. I know Georgians care deeply about their personal economic security and the economic security of their children. Being a member of the EU means, data shows, higher wages, higher pensions, lower unemployment. It means free trade across borders. It means Georgians can live and study and work and retire in any EU country, which I think is really what will be wonderful for the people of this country and grow your standard of living. The European Commission’s recommendation included nine steps that Georgia will have to continue to take to receive candidate status, I mean to open accession negotiations in a year. And I think that what will be required is unity among all Georgians to really get to work and take advantage of this moment and do what is necessary to open accession negotiations. And the United States is absolutely committed to working hand-in-hand with Georgia, the government, the people, civil society organizations, to help you achieve this.
Q-n about 2024 parliamentary elections, significance, electronic voting system that should ensure the election’s transparency, long-term international observation
Ambassador Dunnigan: We also have our own election next year, so Georgia and the United States will be going through the election process at the same time. For Georgia, one key element of the EC’s recommendation was that the institutions that help ensure there is a free, fair, and transparent election – that is part of the EC recommendations. I expect Georgia will welcome short-term and long-term observers. The United States will be working with the Central Election Commission, with the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), with international partners, with the Council of Europe, and with the Georgian Government and civil society organizations to help ensure the elections are free, fair, and transparent. It is one of the most important elements of democracy that people know they can vote and choose their government, and that their vote counts and that their vote is fairly counted. And I think all Georgians share that goal, as do we.
Q-n about Russia’s occupation of Georgia, incidents of kidnapping and killing Georgians, “what steps are being taken by our strategic partner in terms to feel ourselves more secure?”
Ambassador Dunnigan: I do want to offer my condolences to all Georgians, but particularly to the family, friends, and loved ones of Mr. Ginturi. His tragic death was a real-life example of the results of occupation of your country, and the harm that has come to people because of it. A lot of attention has been paid in the last decade to the outcomes of Russia’s aggression. And I think Georgians have felt that very much for a long time since 2008. The United States is absolutely committed to supporting your sovereignty and your territorial integrity to holding… reminding Russia of its own commitments under the 2008 ceasefire agreements. And continuing to work with your institutions, like the Georgian Defense Forces, to ensure that Georgia can deter further aggression and defend its borders. And we have an incredible, incredible cooperation with the Georgian Defense Forces.
Q-n about Georgia’s NATO integration and ways to expedite the process
Ambassador Dunnigan: The United States is a strong supporter of Georgia’s NATO aspirations, and our militaries have worked hand-in-hand for decades to try to help increase Georgia’s military readiness. Georgia is the only non-NATO country that hosts an annual exercise with the United States every year. We just had one this summer, Agile Spirit, where hundreds and hundreds, thousands of Georgian soldiers trained next to U.S. and other NATO soldiers. Our militaries train together, exercise together, fight together. And they have worked for decades to help Georgia’s military become interoperable with NATO. So tremendous progress on that front. NATO is also a political alliance, meaning that you need both the military and the political in order to complete NATO integration. And I believe that integration with the EU will help support and quicken that political part of the puzzle too. And again, we strongly support Georgia’s NATO aspirations and will continue to do so.
Q-n about Black Sea security, and related discussions in the U.S. Senate
Ambassador Dunnigan: Our Senate is rightly focused on Black Sea security, as we all should be. And, I think, Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and what that has meant for the Black Sea gives us a perfect example of why. What is in it for Georgia, why does it matter for Georgia. Black Sea Security means that Georgia and its allies and partners in the Black Sea have better resilience, stronger communication, stronger political coordination, more economic integration with each other. And I think by continuing to build that partnership with Black Sea countries, partners and allies who want to build that partnership, it helps strengthen Georgia’s defenses as well.
Q-n about December 15 – a very important day when the European Council will decide on Georgia getting the candidate status as Georgians hope, Ambassador’s wishes for Georgia
Ambassador Dunnigan: I also hope that it’s a positive decision, but it is of course, a European Council decision. So, I will leave the final decision to the Europeans. But, ultimately, we warmly welcome Georgia into the Western family, a family of democracies, a family of countries that want to build on freedom of choice, economic prosperity, long-term peace and stability. I think Georgia has made remarkable progress over the last 30 plus years, and we would love to support further progress and really put Georgia where, I think it belongs, which is with the West.
Imedi: Thank you very much for the interesting interview.
Ambassador Dunnigan: Thank you. Didi madloba.